The Offending Grindrod Post

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With all the fuss surrounding Patricia de Lille’s sudden and unwelcome interest in blogs, I’m sure everybody’s curious about the post that started it all. But since de Lille’s implying rather bluntly that her party will sue anybody who even reveals the link, I’m not going to bother showing it here. Instead, I’m going to show you how to find it for yourself.

Go to Technorati.com, look for the search box, type in grindrod+kaapstad and hit search. As the post is the one and only result, the rest is easy.[EDIT: This no longer works. See the bottom of the post for the actual link.]

For those not versed in Afrikaans, the author claims to have been a male prostitute, that one of his clients was Simon Grindrod and that he paid him for sexual favours. He also claims the same for other well-known South Africans, including Barry Ronge and James Small.

There are a few interesting things to note about this. First, the same anonymity that de Lille decries is also what prevents this guy from having any credibility at all. Essentially, you’re being asked to believe the word of some anonymous guy ranting away on the internet, who provides absolutely no evidence to back his outrageous claims. He might as well be writing about his encounters with aliens or describing how it was actually super-secret death rays that caused 9/11. I find it hard to believe that any rational person would actually believe what he’s written.

Secondly, de Lille’s more ignorant about technology than we thought. The blog is hosted on WordPress.com, an American-based blog hosting service. So it’s not subject to South African legislation and changing the law to give the SA government greater control over blogs won’t have the slightest impact on it. Similarly, since the server is in a foreign country it’s outside the jurisdiction of the National Intelligence Agency, which is a domestic agency and legally forbidden from conducting espionage outside our national borders. Awesome research there, Patricia. And while we’re on the subject, isn’t it just a bit creepy that de Lille wants to use state intelligence agencies to persecute people who insult her colleagues? Surely that’s outside the NIA’s legal mandate?

All that aside, if Grindrod wants to sue the guy his only option is to follow a long, expensive and convoluted process that starts off by first getting a US court to issue a subpoena, demanding that WordPress.com provide him with the blogger’s IP address and posting time. Assuming WordPress actually kept that kind of info and the subpoena was successful, he could then take that info to the relevant ISP and issue another subpoena ordering it to check its records and reveal the guy’s identity. Unless of course the guy was blogging from an internet cafe or something similar. Then it would all have been a spectacular waste of time. Alternatively, he could demand that WordPress remove the blog, but there’s nothing stopping the blogger from just taking his blog to another host in some other country that would be decidedly less amenable to legal requests.

In practical terms, Grindrod and de Lille can’t win. The internet has changed the playing field and the absolute power wielded by governments is fading. No amount of regulation will be able to silence those who want to be heard, as the frequent circumvention of even China’s draconian internet restrictions has proven. It’s about time that South African politicians realised, as American and British politicians already have, that you’re just going to have to ignore what’s written about you on the internet and let people make up their own minds. They’ll pretty soon figure out who’s credible and who’s not.

Welcome to the new world, Patricia. You’d better get used to it.